Some “firsts” are experienced between two people or witnessed by only a few – attending your first writing conference is not one of them! Every year thousands of romance writers converge on a new city and spend days mingling, networking, going to workshops and putting faces with online names.
Just the thought of signing up for a conference can be enough to send an introvert into terror-mode! Maybe you’ve been convinced by a writing buddy that it’s the next step to take in your career, maybe you’ve simply decided a few days away with people that truly “get” what you do in the wee hours of the night would be fun.
My first conference was a little bit of both…I really wanted to go and meet the women I knew only by their emails, but if I didn’t get the extra push from a friend who offered to be my roommate, I never would have taken the leap and signed up. And I’m glad I did. My first conference was the RWA National in Dallas. I had my first razzarita in a bar with an agent, I pitched my first book to an agent and an editor, and I attended my first standing room only workshop with the wonderful Nora Roberts. I definitely came home on a high.
So what can YOU expect from your first conference? Hoards of writers just like you! Late nights in the bar and lots of laughs. Expect to spend money on food, because not all your meals are included and you’ll want to go out with your new friends! You’ll be overwhelmed both by the crowds and the positive energy pulsing everywhere you go. Expect to take lots of notes in all the wonderful workshops you’ll be attending. EXPECT to come home pumped to write and take your manuscripts to the next level.
Lastly, here’s a few tips on what to bring and what to leave home:
The conference rooms where the workshops are held are usually freezing – definitely pack a sweater. Business casual is the standard dress code, except for awards night when you’ll want to dress up. Bring your comfortable shoes – you’ll be walking a lot! (I know, you’ve got to bring all those great heels in the closet…so if you’re a high heel kinda girl, go for it.)
Most conferences give you a tote bag at check-in, my advice is to keep it light and leave the huge, everyday pocketbook at home. At my first conference I got a lanyard with a large inner pocket and it has gone with me to every conference since. During the day I put some money, my room key, my business cards and my phone in there and that’s it…don’t weigh yourself down.
Business cards are nice to have, but you’ll mostly be handing these out to your new writing friends – agents and editors won’t be looking for your card, if they’re interested in hearing from you, they’ll give you theirs.
Leave your manuscript at home! No passing it over the table or under the bathroom stall. 😉 Again, if an agent or editor requests to see it, they want to you to send it to them.
Have I mentioned the books? OMG…at RWA National you will get more books than could possibly fit in the luggage you arrived with. Most people find a box during the conference, box them up and ship them home (don’t worry about figuring this out – you’ll no doubt see the masses lined up with the hotel staff doing exactly this!)
Bring your smile! Romance writers are awesome, generous women and everyone remembers being a conference virgin.
Do you remember your first time at a writing conference or is your first time looming in the near future?